Mother of Charles Parnell Parnell: His Family

by St John Ervine
Published by Ernest Benn Ltd, 1925
Fanny Parnell, Charles' sister
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Charles Stewart Parnell as a child
Parnell as a child.

About the year 1863, a tall, intense, and handsome girl, with dark hair and hazel eyes, used occasionally to walk, heavily veiled, from their mother’s town house at 14, Upper Temple Street, Dublin, to an office near to Dublin Castle, where a Fenian newspaper, founded in that year by John O’Leary, was published. Her serious manner and studious looks were surprisingly accompanied by a witty tongue, for it is not common for a woman to be both witty in her speech and serious in her behaviour, but she showed none of her wit when she entered the office of the Irish People. As a rule she made these visits to newspaper offices alone – she afterwards contributed poems and articles to the Nation and the United Irishman – but sometimes her elder brother, a tall, lanky, stammering, handsome youth of nineteen, went with her. They would enter the editor’s office, where the girl would place a manuscript, generally of a poem, in the editor’s hands, and then, as silently and as unobtrusively as they had entered, she and her brother would withdraw. The poems and articles were signed “Aleria,” and they had a finer quality than is commonly to be found in poems of political passion. Had she been less engaged in argument and controversy and patriotic propaganda, she would probably have become a distinguished writer; but she belonged to a country which has always turned its poets into politicians, and she was governed by a mother who made her diversion from poetry to politics unavoidable. Her name was Fanny Parnell, and her age was fourteen. Her brother, John Howard Parnell, vaguely sympathised with her views on the government of Ireland, but her second brother, to whom she was devoted, and by whom she was deeply loved, neither sympathised with her views nor would he ever accompany her on her missions to the Fenian papers. When she shyly showed him her poems, he laughed at her.

Ireland, at that time, was full of Fenians from America. These men had fought in the Civil War, and, remembering their nationality when it was over, decided to declare war on England, so that they might set Ireland free. Some of them made an abortive raid into Canada; others enlisted in Irish regiments quartered in Ireland and tried to convert their comrades to sedition (in which they were so successful that the alarmed authorities transferred the troops to England and to India); others took part in dynamite conspiracies to blow up the Houses of Parliament and public buildings in England; and some were merely spongers on the movement. These last, for the most part, and a few that were honest, discovered that Mrs. Parnell would open her purse and home to them, and it soon became common for a procession of dishevelled men, professing the highest patriotism and the most noble sentiments, to call at 14, Upper Temple Street for nourishment and money. The sight was obnoxious to the authorities who noted in their dossiers the singular fact that a lady of the land-owning class was toying with treason; but it was still more obnoxious to the lady’s second son, Charles Steward Parnell, a young militia officer, who bluntly asserted that the patriots were tramps. His disgust with them was such that he used to lie in wait for them behind the hall door, and, directly it was open, make a rush for them and kick them down the steps.[1] His dislike of the Fenians was as strong as his sister’s affection for them, and since his temper was quick and fierce and sometimes uncontrollable, he caused dismay among the patriots who thronged about his mother’s door. This house was so divided against itself that the Fenians had to be careful how they approached it in search of sustenance and charity.

Matters went on in this bickering way until the authorities, thoroughly frightened, decided to suppress the Fenian papers and arrest the editors. The Irish People and the United Irishman were raided and put down. John O’Leary, Thomas Clarke Luby, Charles Kickham, and O’Donovan Rossa were tried for treason and sent to penal servitude for twenty years. That was in the year 1865. Fanny Parnell, feeling that she, too, if she had her rights, would be in the dock by O’Donovan Rossa’s side, attended every day at his trial, with her elder brother, and was so moved by his courageous demeanour that she persuaded John to buy a bouquet of flowers which they purposed to throw to him in court. But the majesty of the law overawed them, and the flowers withered in their hands. The authorities, having disposed of the major culprits, now prepared to teach a lesson to the minor ones. Mrs. Parnell had not only encouraged suspicious characters to assemble at her house for food and money, despite the efforts of her second son to kick them from it, but had even enabled a Fenian named John Murphy, who was involved in a dynamite outrage in Manchester, to escape in female clothing to America. The police obtained a search warrant, and entered her house, which they ransacked form cellar to attic. They found militia uniforms belonging to John Howard, who was in the Armagh Light Infantry, and Charles, who was in the Wicklow Rifles, and – such is the intelligence of the police- mistook them for Fenian regimentals, and carried them away! There was a scene of anger when Charles discovered that his uniform and sword had been seized in the belief that they were emblems of sedition, and he darkly murmured that he would one day give the police something better to do than turning his sister into the street.[2] This was Fanny, who, scorning the enemies of her country, refused to stay under the same roof with them, and abruptly departed for Hood’s Hotel, in Great Brunswick Street.

When his rage had abated, he began to tease his mother, and to warn her that her Fenian sympathies might yet bring her into grave trouble; but it was apparent that the feeling of anger remained, despite his teasing, and it was revived when, a short time after the seizure, an invitation to a levée at the Castle came from the Viceroy, Lord Carlisle, who was a close personal friend of Mrs. Parnell. The young militia officers were eager to attend the levée, but, alas! their uniforms were possessed by the police. The fact that they were treated as Fenian uniforms seemed extraordinarily to irritate Charles, who was proud of his commission in the Queen’s army, and resented being regarded as a Fenian. “This preyed upon his mind,” says his brother John[3], “and he finally declared that he would leave the house if anything more was said about the Fenians.” It will seem a trifling matter for a man to brood upon, but when one realises what the temper of the time was, and the class to which Charles Parnell belonged, the matter becomes less trifling than it now seems. Moreover, he had a proud and sensitive nature, and he could not easily endure the chaff from his brother officers in the Wicklow Rifles which he was ready enough to scatter over this mother.


Fanny Parnell’s poems, wherever they appeared, were identical in tone: they sounded a loud note of love for Ireland and a louder note of hatred for England. She scourged her countrymen with her pen, incessantly urging them to remember their manhood and to prepare themselves for whatsoever hardship they might have to endure in the deliverance of their country. “The birds of prey,” she wrote:

The birds of prey are hovering round, the vultures wheel and swoop –

They come, the coroneted ghouls, with drum-beat and with troop –

They come to fatten on your flesh, your children’s and your wives’;

Ye die but once – hold fast your lands, and if you can, your lives.

And when she had done with these descriptions of her own relations, she turned to the Irish and made her appeals to them in terms which were not innocent of contempt:

Oh, by the God who made us all – the seignor and the serf,

Rise up! And swear this day to hold your own green Irish turf;

Rise up! And plant your feet as men where now you crawl as slaves,

And make your harvest-fields your camps, or make of them your graves.

The verses she was writing for the Irish People were not so accomplished as those, but they were equally fiery, and they were meat and drink to the Fenians, who printed them with pride and pleasure. If she were writing like this in her green youth, what would she be writing in her maturity! The small knowledge they had of her must have stimulated their minds, for she was an aristocrat and a member of a wealthy, land-owning family with an honourable record in Irish affairs. If a sense of humour had been a Southern Irish possession, the Fenians might have found cause for ironic comment in the spectacle of this girl describing a considerable number of her relatives as “coroneted ghouls,” but since a sense of humour has been denied by heaven to the Southern Irish, they thought only of the singular fact that not once, but many times, in the history of Ireland had a leader of rebels against England come from the families of the Ascendancy, and they may have entertained their thoughts with the dream that this young girl would fearlessly follow in the footsteps of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The founders of the Irish People  and the majority of the readers desired to sever the connection between England and Ireland. They dreamt of an Irish Republic, and were so intent on its establishment that they would not willingly listen to anyone who suggested that some ameliorative work of an immediately necessary sort should be done. They had as much contempt for reforms effected through the agency of the English Parliament as a Marxian Socialist has for palliatives. Give the slum-dweller a better house, says the Marxian, and he will refuse to fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat. He will become contented. Therefore, let him fester in his slum until he can endure it no longer, and rises up and slays some very rich person. Give the farmer better conditions of tenure, said the Fenian, and he will become so reconciled to his lot that he will refuse to fight for the establishment of a free and independent republic in Ireland!... Such are the arguments of the logical and the fatuous. A republic or nothing was the demand made by the Fenians. All else must wait until that supreme demand had been satisfied; and so they declined to engage in the promotion of laws to lighten the load under which the farmer staggered towards a livelihood.

No one can properly appreciate the present state of Ireland who does not know its history between the years 1845 and 1865. This is not the place in which to set it out but the reader will do well to remember that he cannot begin to understand many contemporary events of an appalling character until he has made himself acquainted with the history of those twenty years. It is told, with a wealth of detail, in Mr. T. P. O’Connor’s invaluable book, The Parnell Movement, the first half of which should be made a compulsory subject of study for every Englishman engaged in public affairs. A Conservative ceases to be a Conservative and becomes a public danger when he puts a passion for personal advantage in place of a passion for public service, and forgets that his first duty is, not the conserving of himself and his class, but the conserving of the community. Almost the whole of the Conservatives of Ireland were especially engaged during those twenty years in the grossest form of self-preservation, that which will not cease from any cruelty which will bring immediate profit; and we are entitled to say that our forefathers, who shamefully misused their power in those twenty years, are directly chargeable with all the miseries and misfortunes, the barbarities and sickening atrocities, which, since then, have made Ireland notorious among nations.

The record which Mr. O’Connor sets out in his book makes terrible reading. Less than eighty years separate us from that time, yet it seems such misrule and tyranny could only have happened in the Dark Ages. In twenty-one years, 1849-1870, nearly two and a half millions of people fled from Ireland to America and Australia, of whom seventy-five per cent, were between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. In seven months of the year 1863, 80,000 persons, mostly young men and women with strong limbs and stout hearts, left Ireland probably for ever, leaving behind the ailing, the weak, and the aged. And they took with them bitter memories of suffering and wrong that have raised almost insuperable barriers for English welfare in many parts of the world. Thousands of men and women, of all ages, were evicted from their homes at a moment’s notice in the interests of a theory of political economy.

Nassau Senior was the apostle of pastures and fat beeves and muttons, and his statistical soul rejoiced as the records of emigration grew. There was more joy in his heart over one bullock than over thirty men, and he sighed for the day when he might journey through the country and see herds of cattle and hardly a man. Ireland was then, and probably still is, over-populated. It is a small island, sixty miles shorter than one of the great lakes (Michigan) of America, and large tracts of its surface are occupied by mountains, bogs, and water; but between the years 1785 and 1845 its population rose from 2,845,932 to 8,295,061, most of the increase taking place after the Union. This great increase of people was a misfortune, for, as Professor Allison Phillips states in the first chapter of The Revolution of Ireland, “the dampness and uncertainty of the climate, while producing magnificent pasture, make the growing of cereal crops a precarious undertaking over large parts of the island.” If men had been bullocks or sheep, without passions or attachments, the principles advocated by Nassau Senior might have been practised swiftly and without hardship; but men are not bullocks, though they sometimes seem to be sheep, and it is undeniable that Irish landlords, greedy for large and quick returns for their money, performed acts of gross and unbelievable barbarity in turning tillage into pasture. The evicted farmer, as he watched the roof being removed from his cabin, had no knowledge which enabled him to share in the rejoicing of Nassau Senior: he had only the peasant’s hungry love of his home. These men, unskilled in books and economical arguments, remembered in America what they had seen in Ireland, and there grew from their loins a race of people, American bred, who had heard from their infancy of an Ireland, reputed to be flowing with milk and honey, from which their parents were brutally ejected by savage and rapacious Englishmen. It was the descendants of these evicted men and women who made the times of terror forty and eighty years later. In 1846 the Great Hunger occurred. Famines have been frequent in Ireland before that year and since, but this was the worst of them all. People died by the roadside or starved in their cabins. They ate grass; they devoured seaweed; they gnawed the very earth. There was even a horrible rumour that a demented woman had eaten her dead child!... In that most terrible year, when the soul of Ireland was seared, Charles Stewart Parnell was born.

One would hardly have expected to find support for the Fenians in a family which would certainly have suffered financial embarrassment if the Fenians had had their way, unless one were aware of the fact that the Celtic Irish have found their leaders less often among themselves than among the Anglo-Irish. Their distrust of each other makes them reluctant to accept a commander from their own ranks, and their instinctive love of aristocracy makes them look for a leader to the high ranks above them. Very rarely a Daniel O’Connell comes from the cabins; very often a Fitzgerald, a Wolfe Tone, a Robert Emmet, a Charles Stewart Parnell comes from the demesnes or from the class of the demesnes. Michael Davitt, unmistakably a Gael and an Irishman, who had suffered terribly for his country, said with bitterness unusual in him, “The Irish would never accept me as a leader because I belong to the ranks of the people.”[4]

But perhaps a profounder reason accounts for the fact that the Irish in their struggles against the English have almost always found their leaders in the camps of their enemies. The ability to lead is not commonly found among the Celtic or Firbolgian Irish, who have, however, an ability to follow and to endure and suffer which is unmatchable. “The Celt knows his need,” said Mr. J. L. Garvin in a brilliant criticism of Mr. Barry O’Brien’s biography. “He is rebellious to symbolic title. He never acknowledged succession through minors and women. He craves for actual discipline and a real dictator. The only political institution of the Celt  is the chief. Mr. John Hill Burton observes it in his History of Scotland. Mr. Bodley maintains it in his book on France. Mr. Barry O’Brien proves it in his Life of Charles Stewart Parnell.”[5] One may be pardoned for wondering whether the Irish Celtic civilisation could have survived by  itself when one observes how strained and attenuated it has become. One fact beyond all dispute emerges from the clouds of controversy which hang over the Irish firmament, and that is that the whole of what is commonly called Irish culture to-day is Anglo-Irish culture. The great names which illuminate the pages of Irish history for seven centuries past are Anglo-Irish names. This fact is especially observable in literature. Berkeley, Swift, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Burke, Wilde, Moore, Shaw, Synge, Yeats, Russell, James Stephens, Lennox Robinson – all these definitely and undeniably belong to the Anglo-Irish group. In rebellious politics, as we have seen, the Anglo-Irish outnumbered the Celtic Irish among the leaders. It is only in journalism that the Celtic Irish achieve distinction, for journalism is primarily a matter of gossip, and the Celtic Irish talk well.

It has sometimes been observed, not without astonishment, that Englishmen who settle in Ireland become more Irish than the Irish themselves, and a wonder has filled the minds of many persons at the spectacle of men and women of undoubted English origin manifesting a fierce and uncontrollable hatred against England, and making themselves busy and prominent among her enemies. John Mitchel, the author of the Jail Journal, could not have hated England more if he had not had a drop of English blood in his body. Dean Swift, although he had no very great affection for Ireland, had less, if he had any at all, for England. John Millington Synge, who, like Parnell, was descended from a Cheshire family, professed an inability to live with any content among the English. Parnell himself, for the greater part of his mature life, showed a hatred of England which was almost a mania. Many of the leaders of the Sinn Fein rising in 1916 were of English origin, while the most extreme of their successors, those who seceded from the Free State to the Irregular or Republican section of Sinn Fein, were almost all English in origin or English in themselves. The irreconcilable enemies of England in Ireland have rarely had Irish blood. The Parnells had no Irish blood at all. Their pedigree shows no record of intermarriage with the “native” or Firbolgian Irish. They married, as did most of their class, within the ranks of the Anglo-Irish or among their kinsmen in England. The Anglo-Irish, in short, formed a compact and distinct group in Ireland, as easy distinguishable in feature and fortune and behaviour from the “Irish” Irish as a Provencal is from an Alsatian.

It has been said, but without warrant, that the “Irish,” whatever that expression may mean, have always absorbed their conquerors, but the assertion is false so far as the Anglo-Irish are concerned. Differences of class, of religion, of social habit, of culture, and of condition made any such absorption difficult, if not actually impossible. There is always intermarriage to some extent, even in countries where the differences cited are increased by the difference of colour, but there are far less intermarriage in Ireland than is commonly and sentimentally believed. The Anglo-Irish invariably married among the Anglo-Irish; the Celtic Irish invariably married among the Celtic Irish; and so it happened that two groups of people grew up in Ireland who were definitely divisible from each other in nearly every respect. The Parnells had married among the Howards (the family name of the Earls of Wicklow), and the Brookes (the Irish branch of an old Cheshire family), and the Wards of County Down, and the Whitsheds, none of whom were Irish in any sense pleasing to a devout member of the Gaelic League.

Mr J. R.  Fisher, in an interval from his labours on the Boundary Commission, kindly prepared for me some genealogical notes, taken from the Hamilton Manuscripts, which show that Charles Stewart Parnell, the present Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, and the present Viscount Bangor are all ninth in descent from Hans Hamilton (a descendant of the Dukes of Hamilton), who was minister of Dunlop in Ayrshire. The minister’s son, James, came over to Dublin, as confidential agent of James VI. of Scotland, to make sure of his becoming James I. of England and Ireland. Through this descent, Parnell was remotely related to Robert Emmet, and could claim kinship with a host of lords – Carrick, Roden, Claremont, Clanbrassil, Limerick, and others.

On their mother’s side, the young Parnells were descended from an Ulster-Scottish family which had emigrated from Belfast to Philadelphia during a time of persecution in the middle of the eighteenth century, taking with them a sense of wrong and injustice which rankled in their minds and filled them with a hatred of England which was transmitted to their descendants, becoming more bitter and ferocious as it became more academic and remote from personal fact, until at last it became a madness in the mind of Delia Tudor Steward, who met and married John Henry Parnell in 1834. Many thousands of Ulster Presbyterians fled to America between the years 1728 and 1770, and these were among the stoutest and most determined of those who fought against the English in 1775 and won the War of Independence.

Miss Stewart’s father, Commodore Charles Stewart, of the American Navy, was a famous and remarkable man, who performed many daring and audacious feats in various wars fought by the United States, particularly those against England. He had a genius for seafaring which enabled him to attack and defeat enemies as brave as himself, even when they were superior to him in numbers. He was the first American to bear the title of “Admiral,” but it was by one more affectionate, that of “Old Ironsides,” that he was known to the majority of his countrymen. Mr. Barry O’Brien[6] quotes this description of him: “Commodore Stewart was about five feet nine inches, and of a dignified and engaging presence. His complexion was fair, his hair chestnut, eyes blue, large, penetrating, and intelligent. The cast of his countenance was Roman, bold, strong, and commanding, and his head finely formed. His command of his passions was truly surprising, and under the most irritating circumstances his oldest seamen never saw a ray of anger flash from his eyes. His kindness, benevolence, and humanity were proverbial; but his sense of justice and the requisitions of duty were as unbending as fate. In the moment of great stress and danger he was cool and quick in judgment, as he was utterly ignorant of fear. His mind was acute and powerful, grasping the greatest or smallest subjects with the intuitive mastery of genius.” His wife, a beautiful Boston woman, and the daughter of Judge William Tudor, who fought against the English in the War of Independence, ultimately refused to live with him for what this granddaughter calls “domestic reasons.”[7] These reasons are not described in any detail, but as “an illegitimate relation,” after the death of “Old Ironsides,” instituted a lawsuit[8] against Mrs. Parnell, on the plea that her property really belonged to him, “in spite of his bar-sinister,” we may conclude what they were. At all events, when the old Admiral offered to adopt Emily Parnell, after she had been disinherited by her father, her uncle, Mr. Wigram, a member of the sect of Plymouth Brethren, with which the Parnells had several associations, paid the sum necessary to get her made a ward in Chancery rather than permit her to “live in such a questionable atmosphere.”[9]

Accounts of a man’s ancestry have become unfashionable in modern biography, but we cannot safely dispense with an account of the Parnells’ pedigree, since we find in it much that enables us to comprehend the character and conduct of Charles Stewart Parnell. The swiftness of judgement and grasp of detail which were notable in Parnell, exciting the admiration and wonder of his contemporaries, were clearly inherited from “Old Ironsides,” and perhaps also his susceptibility to the love of women. One sees in the eyes of Parnell’s mother a strong, lustful look, and we may believe that Parnell’s highly sexual nature was derived by him from the distaff side. Admiral Stewart died in his house on a high bluff of the Delaware, south of Black’s Creek, at Bordenstown, New Jersey, on November 6, 1869. We are given no account of the relations between him and his Irish grandchildren, nor do we know whether he ever saw any of them, except John; but his blood unmistakably flowed through the veins of one of them, and “Old Ironsides,” had he lived long enough, might have seen himself renewed in his grandson, Charles.


We begin to discover the sources from which some of the young Parnells drew their singular antipathy to England. The immediate and main source of it, as shall presently be shown, was Mrs. Parnell, but there were other sources which went to augment the swollen stream which poured from her. It is unnecessary, and perhaps impossible, to describe all of them; but one, which affected them as much through their mother as through their father, has to do with the peculiar nature of the English people, who are so restive under any authority than that of themselves that, when they quit their country, they will not tolerate the tyranny, however benevolent it may be, of even their own kin who remain at home. It was mostly men of English and Ulster origin who made the Revolution which separated England and America; and some of the most bitter and narrow-minded Anglophobes in the United States can say that they have no other blood than English. The late Henry Cabot Lodge misspent a long life in obstinate antagonism to England because he had inherited a hatred of it so fierce and fanatical that, when he was a young man, merely to read a newspaper account of a fight between two pugilists, Sayers and Heenan, was sufficient to fill him with rage against a people and a country of which at that time he had no personal knowledge. Yet Henry Cabot Lodge sprang from an English family. It has been remarked that Canada remains within the British Commonwealth of nations because most of its English-speaking pioneers were clan-loving Scotsmen, while America broke away from England because most of its English-speaking pioneers were Englishmen. The English settlers in Ireland soon displayed the English characteristic of rebellion against home authority, with the result that nearly all the anti-British movements in Ireland for seven centuries past have been led by men of English origin. The Parnells had been in Ireland for less than two centuries when Delia Stewart began to bear children to John Henry Parnell, but in that time they had given more than their share of able and eminent men to the ranks of those who were prepared to defend Ireland against the assaults of England.

The first of the Parnells of whom we have accurate knowledge was Thomas, a mercer and draper in the town of Congleton in Cheshire. He was a substantial citizen, and became mayor of his town in the reign of James I. His son, Richard, also became mayor of Congleton on three separate occasions. His fourth son, Tobias, who was a gilder and decorative painter, became the father of Thomas Parnell, the third known to us of that name, who founded the Irish family. This Parnell purchased an estate in Queen’s County after the restoration of the Stuarts to the English throne, probably because his Cromwellian activities had rendered him obnoxious to the restored monarchy, and he rightly imagined that life would be more comfortable at a distance from the Royalists. He had inherited his family’s thrift and industry, and soon became a prosperous Irish land-owner. When he died in 1685 he left two sons – Thomas, a clergyman, and John, a lawyer. Thomas, who is better known as a poet than as a priest, was the first of the Parnells to be born in Ireland. His birth took place in Dublin in 1669, and he was educated at Trinity College. In 1703 he was ordained, and two years later was appointed, his age being twenty-seven, to the archdeaconry of Clogher. This rapid preferment to archidiaconal rank, however, was due less to devotion or doctrinal distinction than to family influence, for his heart was in literature and not in theology. In those days there was more nepotism than godliness in the Church of Ireland, and young men of family were frequently to be found in possession of handsome revenues from a cure of souls in which the souls were far to seek. Dean Swift himself at Laracor one morning began his sermon, not with “Dearly beloved brethren,” but with “Dearly beloved Roger,” for Roger, his parish clerk, was the sole person present to hear him.

Archdeacon Parnell was oftener in London than was consistent with the proper discharge of his light duties in the diocese of Clogher, and, when there, was more frequently seen in the society of wits and poets than of clerics. It is probable that the only Dean he gladly endured was Swift, who, like Alexander Pope, was especially  his friend. He must have had considerable charm, for at a time when political feeling ran high he contrived to be on terms of intimate friendship with both Whigs and Tories, and could count on the affection of Swift, Addison, Steele, Congreve, Pope, and Gay. Yet he was moody, either in a state of elation or of depression: “the most capable man,” wrote Oliver Goldsmith in his Life, “to make the happiness of those whom he conversed with, and the least able to secure his own.” His wife, a beautiful and amiable lady, died when he was thirty-two years of age, and thereafter a melancholia settled upon him, and he became mentally disordered. He suddenly died at Chester in 1717, when on his way from London to Ireland, and was buried there, in his thirty-eighth year, having being predeceased by his two sons. Thus perished the first of the Irish Parnells.

“His work,” says a writer in the Dictionary of National Biography, “is marked by sweetness, refined sensibility, musical and fluent versification, and high moral tone.” His Life of Homer was prefixed to Pope’s translation of the Iliad, and Pope was indebted to him for much assistance in his own work, a debt which he discharged by editing an edition of his poems. Dr. Johnson discreetly, perhaps reluctantly, praised him, saying, “He is sprightly without effort, and always delights, though he never ravishes.” “It is impossible to say whether they [his poems] are the productions of nature so excellent as not to want the help of art, or of art so refined as to resemble nature.” The poet’s property in Queen’s County, as well as some that he had in England, now passed into the possession of his brother, John, the lawyer, who had settled at Rathleague in Queen’s County. He was a “man of great integrity and most amiable character,” and though he achieved no personal distinction, he was the progenitor of several distinguished men, to whom he did the important service of leaving his fortunes in better condition than they were when he received them.

The Parnells, as has already been hinted, had more notabilities among them than are common in one family. Between the Cecil who was Queen Elizabeth’s counsellor and the Cecil who, as Marquis of Salisbury, became Prime Minister of England under Queen Victoria there stretches a long list of totally undistinguished persons; but between the Parnell who was mayor of Congleton and the Parnell who became “the uncrowned King of Ireland” there are at least three notable names, the first belonging to the poet. The second distinguished Parnell was Sir John, the second baronet, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Irish Parliament in 1787 – a brave and honourable man who, in a time when nepotism was accounted almost a virtue and a sign of parental solicitude, resolutely refrained from using his public power for the betterment of his family. He resisted the dissolution of the Irish Parliament and the Union with England, and was dismissed from his high office and accused of treason by Castlereagh. The fight he fought was a lost fight before it began, but he came out of it with an unshakable reputation for just and fair dealing. He is described as a man of “blunt honesty, a strong, discriminating mind, and good talents.” He died in 1801, leaving five sons and one daughter of whom the eldest, John Augustus, was a deaf and dumb imbecile[10]. Because of his son’s afflictions, a special Act of Parliament was passed in 1789 to enable Sir John’s second son, Henry, to succeed to his father’s property and title. Henry was, perhaps, the most generally distinguished of all the Parnells, though he was to be outdone in particular distinction by his grand-nephew. He became Secretary of State for War in Lord Grey’s Ministry, but was dismissed from his office because he was not amenable to authority. In 1835 he became Paymaster-General of the Forces in the Melbourne Ministry, and kept his office until he was made a peer under the title of Lord Congleton in 1841. He did not long survive his ennoblement. He lost his health, and hanged himself at the age of sixty-six on June 8, 1842, in his house at Cadogan Place, Chelsea.

Lord Congleton was a very able and astute man, ready, like his father, to defend Ireland whenever it was assailed. He might, indeed, have enjoyed longer spells of higher office had he been more accommodating in the matter of misusing Catholics, but he persisted in protecting them whenever he could, and for that cause was unpopular with his colleagues, to whom the defence of unimportant and powerless people was probably a sign of perversity and sheer silliness. He had a high reputation as a political economist and writer on finance. “Among the projects he advocated in the British House of Commons were the abolition of all laws restricting either labour or capital, including the abolition of the Corn Laws, which made the food of the people dear; the removal of all unequal taxes, and the substitution of a property tax; the shortening of the term for which members of Parliament are elected, so that constituencies could sooner deal with those who misrepresent them; an extension of the franchise; the introduction of the ballot for the protection of voters from intimidation; and the abolition of flogging in the army and navy, and of impressments in the latter.”[11] In a treatise entitled Financial Reform, he laid before his countrymen the financial and fiscal policy which was later on to be carried out by Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone. One of his books, A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics from 1689 to the Union, is considered to be the best on its subject. An account of him[12], quoted by Mr. Barry O’Brien from one of his contemporaries, is interesting because of some points of resemblance it contains between him and his grand-nephew, Charles Stewart Parnell:

“Sir Henry Parnell is a respectable, but by not means a superior speaker. He has a fine clear voice, but he never varies the key in which he commences. He is, however, audible in all parts of the House. His utterance is well timed, and he appears to speak with great ease. He delivers his speeches in much the same way as if he were repeating some pieces of writing he had committed to his memory in his schoolboy years. His gesticulation is a great deal too tame for his speeches to produce any effect. He stands stock still except when he occasionally raises and lets fall his right hand…”

He was, as Mr. O’Brien points out, an opponent of the use of the lash nearly half a century before Charles Parnell took a powerful part in the agitation against flogging in the services. One may compare this account of Lord Congleton with that of his grand-nephew, given by his brother: “He was always afraid of lapsing into an error of grammar or spelling, and for a considerable time wrote out his speeches word for word, and carefully corrected them before delivery.”[13]

“When speaking in public he stood up rather stiffly, with his arms folded loosely in front of him, though very occasionally I have seen him with them clasped behind his back… He spoke in a rather low voice, but slowly and very distinctly, making every word tell. He rarely emphasised any point, however important, by raising his voice or by gesticulating in any way with his arms. As a matter of fact, he always had a horror, even in his private life, of speaking loudly. I remember an instance of this one time when we were together at Avondale. We were walking down the road to the sawmills, when I noticed that some of his men working on a field near-by were taking things very easily, even for Irish labourers. I said to him: ‘Why don’t you call out to those fellows, Charley, and get them to hurry up? They look like being all day over that field, if they go on like that.’ He replied, with a shrug of his shoulders: ‘I know that: but if I wanted to make them hear I should have to shout, and I dislike shouting.’”[14]

We may here note that the melancholia which haunted the whole of the Parnells, ranging in Lord Congleton’s generation from imbecility in the eldest son, through madness, terminating in suicide, in the second son, to extreme eccentricity in the fourth son, Thomas, who was familiarly known in Dublin as “old Tom Parnell,” and marked oddity in their sister, Sophia, who married a member of Parliament called George Hampden Evans. “Old Tom Parnell,” says Miss Frances Power Cobbe:[15]

“’Old Tom Parnell’… had a huge, ungainly figure like Dr. Johnson’s, and one of the sweetest, softest faces ever worn by mortal man. He had, at some remote and long-forgotten period, been seized with a fervent and self-denying religious enthusiasm of the ultra-Protestant type; and this had somehow given birth in his brain to a scheme for arranging texts of the Bible in a mysterious order which, when completed, should afford infallible answers to every question of the human mind! To construct the interminable tables required for this wonderful plan, poor Tom Parnell devoted his life and fortune. For years, which must have amounted to many decades, he laboured at the work in a bare, gloomy, dusty room in what was called a ‘Protestant office’ in Sackville Street. Money went speedily to clerks and printers; and no doubt the good man (who himself lived, as he used to say laughingly, on a ‘second-hand bone’) gave money also freely in alms. One way or another, Mr. Parnell grew poorer and more poor, his coat looked shabbier, and his beautiful long white hair more obviously in need of a barber. Once or twice every summer he was prevailed upon by his sister [Mrs. Evans] to tear himself from his work and pay her a few weeks’ visit in the country at Portrane; and to her and to all her visitors he preached incessantly his monotonous appeal; ‘Repent; and cease to eat good dinners, and devote yourselves to compiling texts!’... At last one day, late in the autumnal twilight, the porter, whose duty it was to shut up the office, entered the room and found the old man sitting quietly in his chair where he had laboured so long… fallen into his last long sleep…”

with his texts still incompletely arranged and the solution of all the questions that vex the human mind undiscovered. We shall have occasion to refer to Mrs. Evans in the second chapter, but we may here note the Lord Congleton’s heir, the second peer, carried on the Parnell tendency to eccentric behaviour be leading the Plymouth Brethren in Ireland, and that Charles Stewart Parnell himself was for a short period attracted by the dismal doctrines of that singular society of Christians. “I like their quietness,” he said to Mr. T.P. O’Connor.

The third of Sir John Parnell’s sons was William, the grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell[16]. He was the first of his family to live at Avondale, which had been settled on Sir John by one of his friends and admirers, Colonel Samuel Hayes, a barrister-in-law. “The will of Colonel Hayes contained a curious provision that the estate of Avondale should always pass to a younger member of the family (it being considered, no doubt, that the older members would be sufficiently provided for out of the ancestral estates in the counties of Armagh and Queen’s); and it also stipulated that the owners of Avondale should take the name of Hayes, or Parnell-Hayes. My grandfather was known as William Parnell-Hayes, but the name Hayes has for some reason been dropped by the subsequent heirs of the property.”[17] William Parnell-Hayes lived the life of a quiet, studious, country gentleman, interested mainly in his books, his neighbours, and his estate, and took no active part in politics, although he was an enemy of the Union and sufficiently interested in public affairs to publish in 1805 a pamphlet entitled An Enquiry into the Causes of Popular Discontent, in which he displayed deep sympathy with the persecuted Papists. He also published a book entitled An Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics, in which this sympathy was manifested at greater length. The Parnells had always been known for their defence of the misused Catholics, and it was the reputation of his ancestors in this respect which secured friendly consideration for Charles Stewart Parnell when, seemingly a stuttering, stupid young man, he offered himself to the Nationalists as a political candidate. William Parnell-Hayes, despite his affection for his life at Avondale, was persuaded to enter Parliament as member for Wicklow in 1817, but he did not long remain there, for he died on January 2, 1821, in his forty-fourth year, leaving a ten-year-old son, John Henry, and a daughter, Catherine. Avondale now became the property of the latter, who had married a Mr. Wigram.

John Henry Parnell, since he was not the owner of Avondale, did not retain the surname of Hayes, and no provision had been made for its adoption by a female heir on her marriage. The “Hayes,” therefore, was dropped. John Henry, now owner of Collure in Armagh and Clonmore in Carlow, decided, after the death of his father, to go on a long tour in America and Mexico with his cousin, Lord Powerscourt. He, like his father, was more ambitious to lead the life of a country gentleman than to lead the life of a politician, and his tastes, too, were literary. He was not yet twenty-one when Powerscourt  and he set off on their travels. Soon after they arrived in America they met in Washington Miss Delia Tudor Stewart, a tall, handsome, vivacious girl of seventeen, with dark hair and blue eyes, an  unusually oval face and pale complexion, who talked politics to them, and was conspicuous in the social and political life of her neighbourhood. Each of them fell in love with her, and it seemed as if the superior social position of Lord Powerscourt would enable him to win her from young Parnell. But the latter’s sister, Mrs. Wigram, hearing of the affair, determined to help her brother, and she gave him Avondale in return for a mortgage of £10,000 bearing interest at five per cent[18]. This gift seems to have settled Lord Powerscourt’s chances, and in 1834 she married his cousin in New York. “This,” says Mr. Barry O’Brien, “was the one notable event in the life of John Henry Parnell.” He was twenty-one and she was barely eighteen when he took her to Avondale.


The Parnells had always offered resistance to English misgovernment in Ireland, but they had never hated England. They remained on terms of friendship and even of intimacy with their kinsmen in the larger island. Much of their time was spent in England. They sent their children to English schools and universities. They regarded themselves as the English in Ireland, and, although they would not permit, if they could help it, the English to bully or tyrannise over them, they yet considered themselves important members of the English family. When one of them was raised to the peerage he took, as we have seen, his territorial title, not from Ireland, but from Congleton, the town in Cheshire where his family was founded .But with the advent of Miss Delia Tudor Stewart to Avondale, as the new Mrs. Parnell, a  change began. This lady, who seems to have been one of those outspoken, strong-minded, silly women, commoner now, perhaps, in America than anywhere else, who have been so admirably exposed by Mr. Bernard Shaw in the characters of Mrs. Clandon in You Never Can Tell and Lady Britomart Undershaft in Major Barbara, set herself, almost from the beginning of her life at Avondale, to the mean mischief of making bitterness and wrath between her husband’s family and their countrymen in England. She is not the only American woman who, having married into an Anglo-Irish family, has wrought incalculable harm to her adopted country and people by importing into it an entirely artificial hatred of England, founded on the fact that the English English and the American English fought against each other more than a century ago with much of the bitterness which is commonly to be found in family feuds. The legend is that the American English were entirely virtuous on that occasion, the English English were entirely villainous, but verity obliges us to believe that there were faults on both sides. Mrs. Parnell had no doubts on the matter: the English English were miscreants of an  unusually foul sort, while the American English were possessed of a nobility which placed them a little higher than angels. Her husband, an easy-going man, endeavoured, but without success, to make a reasonable woman of her, but it seems that he soon despaired of doing so, for there came a time when he absolutely forbade political discussions. “At Avondale politics were tabooed.”[19]

The death of her husband in 1859, at the age of forty-eight, removed all restraint from her, and she soon began to take part in extreme politics. She hated England and the English with a ferocity so outrageous as to leave us wondering whether or not the poor lady was right in her head. Whenever she met an Englishman, in her own house or in his, she took advantage of her sex to insult his country and his race. Her guests, remembering that she was their hostess, though she rarely remembered that fact herself, good-temperedly laughed at her tirades, although some of them must at times have thought that she passed beyond the bounds of decency and decorum. She retained, oddly enough, a strong affection for the English throne. “Our mother,” says her son, John Howard Parnell, “though American to the core, a burning enthusiast in the cause of Irish liberty, and possessed of an inveterate hatred of England… yet always instilled into her children the principles of personal loyalty to their Sovereign, which she held not to be inconsistent with individual liberty.” He quotes an extract from a letter which she wrote to him while he was a member of Parliament, “containing an exhortation which she must often have addressed to Charley as well during his lifetime:”

“How the Queen must despise low, mean, mischief-making extremists! They get money by rousing passions and exaggerating aims. If they succeed, rebellion and anarchy will run riot in Europe… The Queen is wise and good; find out her intentions. Her ministers are not infallible.”[20]

She urged her son to attend the levées and Court functions, and was, when she lived in Dublin, herself assiduous in attending at the Viceregal Court. Lord Carlisle, the Viceroy, was her personal friend, and had given instructions to his officials that she and her children were to be included in the list of guests to be invited to all the functions either at the Lodge or the Castle. One who knew the Parnells and Avondale tells me that Mrs Parnell was considered by the people about the estate to be a “flighty” woman. They said her husband “ was a clever man, but drifted along, and allowed his wife to manage everything about their children. She was ‘bad all along, and mad in the end.’ She would go away and not see her husband for near a year again.” Mr. Barry O’Brien, her son’s biographer, met her in 1896, two years before she died of burns at Avondale. She was then over eighty years of age, and “animated by one fixed idea, a rooted hatred of England; or rather, as she herself put it, of ‘English dominion.’” When Mr. O’Brien enquired of her why her son had such an antipathy to England, she replied, “Why should he not? Have not his ancestors always been opposed to England? My grandfather Tudor fought against the English in the War of Independence. My father fought against the English in the year 1812, and I suppose the Parnells had no great love for them… It was very natural for Charles to dislike the English; but it is not the English whom we dislike, or whom he disliked. We have no objection to the English people; we object to the English dominion. We would not have it in America. Whey should they have it in Ireland?  Why are the English so jealous of outside interference in their affairs, and why are they always trying to dip their fingers in everybody’s pie? The English are hated in America for their grasping policy; they are hated everywhere for their arrogance, greed, cant and hypocrisy. No country must have national rights or national aspirations but England. That is the English creed. Well, other people don’t see it; and the English are astonished. They want us all to think they are so goody-goody. They are simply thieves.”[21]

It is difficult to understand how Mrs. Parnell managed to distinguish, in her hatred, between the policy of these frightful people and the people themselves. A man who is a greedy, arrogant, canting, hypocritical thief must surely be as hateful as are greed, arrogance, cant, hypocrisy and theft? One might excuse and forgive this incoherent, contradictory, and fatuous stuff if it were merely the utterance of an aged lady, somewhat deranged[22] and on the verge of death, but it is typical of the sort of stuff she had been accustomed to talk wherever she went in England or in Ireland from the day she arrived at Avondale. One who was at Chipping Norton, where her sons, John and Charles, were at school, states in a passage quoted by Mr. O’Brien[23] that he well remembered “the day the Parnells came to school” for the first time. “Their mother brought them. She wore a green dress” – a colour which her son Charles had not yet discovered to be unlucky – “and Wishaw came to me and said, ‘I say, D---, I have met one of the most extraordinary women I have ever seen – the mother of the Parnells. She is a regular rebel. I have never heard such treason in my life. Without a note of warning she opened fire on the British Government, and, by Jove, she gave it to us hot. I have asked her to come for a drive to show her the country, and you must come too for protection.’” When Lord Carlisle dined at her house or she dined at the Viceregal Lodge, for she loved the assemblies of the rich and influential, she lashed him with her tongue, but he appears to have treated her unseemly  talk as the bibble-babble of a pretty young woman whose passion for disrupting conversation must be indulged by elderly gentlemen. Officers visiting Avondale to play cricket, a game of which both her husband and her son Charles were fond, were generally treated to a piece of her mind on a subject which seemed never to be off her tongue. Those who suffered from this abuse seldom believed that she was in earnest. That was the age – as, indeed, this is too – when a woman could be as abusive and ill-bred as she pleased provided she had first taken the precaution to be good-looking. It was only pretty Fanny’s way. But Mrs. Parnell’s mania was no laughing matter, and when her husband was no longer alive to control her, she contrived to raise a horrid crop of hatred in the minds of her younger children; for it is significant that those of them who manifested this hatred were all under the age of fourteen when their father suddenly expired in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. Charles Stewart was thirteen, Fanny was ten, and Anna was seven years of age in the year of his death, 1859.

These three, especially Fanny, were more successfully trained by her to hate England and the English than their brothers and sisters. The resentment which Charles as a young man felt against his mother because of her association with the Fenians was not due to affection for England, but to pure snobbery. The Fenians were common people, unkempt and poor, and Parnell did not care to mix with persons of no social distinction. This snobbery lasted with him for the length of his life. When he went to America for the first time, at the age of twenty-five, he was “greatly afraid of being mistaken for the usual Irish emigrant, the only class of our countrymen to be found in these parts, and before we went round to Colonel Powell he said to me: ‘For God’s sake, John, don’t tell them we are from Ireland, as they have never seen a real Irish gentleman, and wouldn’t know one if they did…’”[24] When John Parnell suggested to him one day that he should enter Parliament, he curtly replied, “’I could not, because I would not join that set.’ His pride, in other words, prevented him from moving with the Home Rulers of that time, because they were beneath him in station.”[25]. His mother shared his feelings in these matters, for she wrote to her son John, after the son Charles’s downfall: “Your brother is the only gentleman in the whole set – so  high-principled, so strictly delicate and correct-minded.”[26]

Miss Frances Power Cobbe, in her Life from which quotation has already been made, has the following passage:

“Mrs. Evans, née Sophia Parnell… and a great-aunt of Charles Stewart Parnell… often spoke to me of the Avondale branch of her family, and more than once said: ‘There is mischief brewing! I am troubled at what is going on in Avondale. My nephew’s wife’ (the American lady, Delia Stewart) ‘has a hatred of England, and is educating my nephew, like a little Hannibal, to hate it too!’”[27]

The octogenarian Mrs. Parnell, when she tried to account to Mr. O’Brien her son’s singular antipathy to the race from which he had sprung, omitted to inform him that she had deliberately misshaped her son’s mind, and had reared him and his brothers and sisters in a rage which could not end otherwise than in the ruin of those whom it racked. Her daughter Fanny, while still a young girl, was composing poems of which this mania was the motive. Her son Charles, although he was English even to his accent, professed and felt a personal hatred for England and the English people which seriously affected his political relations with them and prevents him from attempting to understand them or to make them understand him or his countrymen. He would not willingly associate with them, on any other terms than those of enmity, and he forbade his subordinates in Parliament to do so[28]’  He was devoted to his mother, despite the insinuations made towards the end of his life that he had treated her shabbily, and he was responsible to her suggestions. The seeds of antipathy which she sowed in his mind did not spring up at once, but when they did spring up they became unrootable. He always “distrusted” the English, and reviled them as hypocrites. They were “wolves”, dishonest, self-seeking, full of Machiavellian plots, treacherous. He would not deign to “explain” himself to them, and was with difficulty persuaded by Justin McCarthy and Michael Davitt to pay for propaganda in England to educate the English electorate in the meaning of the Irish movement. Once, while delivering an address before a Convention in Dublin, he suddenly dropped his theme and threw off some of his anti-English sentiments. “The great thing, in my opinion,” he said in a passage containing more venom than sense, “is to resolve that we shall use no articles of English manufacture whatever. Buy in any other market that you please if you cannot buy in any Irish market, and there are undoubtedly many things which are not provided well in Ireland or which are not produced at all in Ireland. These things we ought to buy anywhere but in England…” He paused for a moment, and then repeated his last words, “anywhere but in England.”[29]

Dean Swift, during a period of mental disturbance, said this more wittily, though not any more sensibly, when he advised the Irish people to burn everything from England except coal. The voice was the voice of Parnell, but the words came straight from the mind of his mother. They could not have come from the mind of a statesman. Mr. R. B. Cunninghame Graham, as aristocratic as Parnell and as unhappy as he in the House of Commons, had some friendship with him. Writing in a defunct Irish review called Dana, he said of Parnell that, “above all, he hated England and her ways. With what a seething coldness, as of ice upon the edges of a crater, he would say ‘your country’ or ‘your queen.’ Even the House of Commons, stupid as it was, would shiver, and red-faced Tory squires and Nonconformists, reared on seed-cake and lemonade, would rise in their seats, shaking their mottled or their plebeian fists at his calm, smiling face… No one, I think, was ever hated by the House as was Parnell, and he returned its hate a hundredfold, taking delight in gibing at it and making it absurd. Nothing offended him so much as when some hypocritical ‘Noncon.,’ whom he and Gladstone had kicked round into Home Rule, would talk about the ‘union of our hearts,’ and prophesy that soon all differences of race would be obliterated. Then, as he ground his teeth and his pale cheeks grew white with rage, he sometimes muttered, ‘Damn them!’ with so much unction and such fervency that one felt sure his prayer, if not immediately vouchsafed, would yet be taken ad avizandum, as the lawyers say, and perhaps be of avail[30]. Mr. Cunningham Graham, wishing to praise Parnell, leaves us with the uncomfortable feeling that his hero’s mind was unsound, since no human being can hate a race, as Parnell is here reported to have hated England, and remain in possession of his senses. Mr. Graham’s casual reference to the foam which gathered about Parnell’s mouth when he was in one of his rages adds to the discomfort.

It was in this atmosphere of insane hatreds that the young Parnells grew up. Charles, whose mentality was slow, took longer than his younger sisters, Fanny and Anna, to produce the fine flowers of Mrs. Parnell’s hatred, but when they came they were immense. Fanny’s hatred never dwindled; it steadily increased. Her dabblings in spiritualism did not diminish it, and what little we know of her shows that she retained, in all its intensity, her loathing of the English to the day of her death. In 1877, when she was twenty-eight, she sat for twenty-six continuous hours, exalted, no doubt, by the discomfiture of the Saxons, in the Ladies’ Gallery while her brother and his followers held up the business of the House of Commons. It was she who founded the American Ladies’ Land League, which was the forerunner of the Irish Ladies’ Land League, founded by her sister Anna in Dublin, and afterwards ruthlessly suppressed by Parnell when he emerged form Kilmainham Prison[31]. The last glimpse we get of her is through the eyes of the late William Redmond[32]. She and her mother were then living, in 1882, at the house bequeathed to Mrs. Parnell by her father – Ironsides, Bordenstown, near New York. Redmond and Michael Davitt had been conducting an Irish mission in America, and Davitt was about to depart for Ireland. A reception was held in New York in his honour, and Mrs. Parnell read a poem about him which Fanny had composed. Davitt departed, and shortly afterwards Redmond went out to Ironsides to see the Parnells. Fanny was not at home. “She returned in a great state of excitement with a copy of the New York Herald in her hand. It was the time of the Egyptian War, and there was a rumour of an English defeat. I remember well seeing Fanny burst into the drawing-room, waving the paper over her head, and saying: ‘Oh, mother, there is an Egyptian victory. Arabi has whipped the Britishers. It is grand.’ That was the last time I saw Fanny Parnell alive. Next day, she died quite suddenly.” She was found dead in her bed on the morning after Redmond’s visit. Like many members of her family, including her father and her brother Charles, she suffered from a weak heart, and probably the shock of discovering that Arabi had not whipped the Britishers, killed her. She was Charles Parnell’s favourite sister and companion, and the news of her death deeply distressed him. When Anna heard of it, she “fell into a fit which very nearly proved fatal.”[33]

Fanny Parnell was, perhaps, of all her family, the most fervently devoted to Ireland. Her passion for her country had a quality of fierce virgin affection which was not to be found even in her brother Charles’s feeling for it. The best of her poems is on entitled “After Death,” in which this affection is abundantly made manifest:

Shall mine eyes behold thy glory, O my country? Shall mine eyes behold thy glory?

Or shall the darkness close around them, ere the sunblaze break at last upon thy story?

When the nations ope for thee their queenly circle, as a sweet new sister hail thee,

Shall these lips be sealed in callous death and silence, that have known but to bewail thee?

Shall the ear be deaf that only loved thy praises, when all men their tribute bring thee?

Shall the mouth be clay that sang thee in thy squalor, when all poets’ mouths shall sing thee?

Ah! the harpings and the salvos and the shoutings of they exiled sons returning!

I should hear, ho’ dead and mouldered, and the grave-damps should not chill my bosom’s burning.

Ah! the tramp of feet victorious! I should hear them ‘mid the shamrocks and the mosses,

And my heart should toss within the shroud and quiver as a captive dreamer tosses.

I should turn and rend the cere-clothes round me, giant sinews I should borrow-

Crying “O, my brothers, I have also loved her in her loneliness and sorrow!”

“Let me join with you the jubilant procession: let me chant with you her story;

Then contented I shall go back to the shamrocks, now mine eyes have seen her glory!”


It was necessary to make these plunges backwards and forwards into the history of the Parnells to create for the reader the atmosphere in which the young Panrells grew. They had a distinguished ancestry on their father’s side and on their mother’s side, but they had inherited from it a physical weakness and a strongly emotional and morbid nature which impelled some of them dangerously near to lunacy. It was their misfortune that their easily-disturbed minds should have been dominated, during their most impressionable years, by a mother who could give them no better purpose in life than to “hate England,” and was herself mentally unbalanced.

[1] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, p. 70.

[2] Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. i., p. 47.

[3] Charles Stewart Parnell, by John Howard Parnell.

[4] Chief and Tribune: Parnell and Davitt, by M.M. O’Hara, p. 224.

[5] Parnell and his Power, by J. L. Garvin, Fortnightly Review, December, 1898.

[6] Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. i., p. 28.

[7] A Patriot’s Mistake, by Emily Monroe Dickinson, p.10.

[8A Patriot’s Mistake, by Emily Monroe Dickinson, p.210.

[9A Patriot’s Mistake, by Emily Monroe Dickinson, p. 37.

[10] John Augustus, Henry, William, Thomas, Arthur, and Sophia. The last named became Mrs. Evans

[11] The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, M.P., by Thomas Sherlock, p11.

[12] This and the other accounts of the Parnells are taken from The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol i.,pp 1- 20.

[13] Charles Stewart Parnell, by John Howard Parnell, p. 53.

[14] Charles Stewart Parnell, , by John Howard Parnell, p. 175.

[15] The Life of Frances Power Cobbe, by herself, vol. i., p191.

[16] Arthur, of whom we have no other information, was the youngest

[17] See Appendix G, p. 302, Charles Stewart Parnell,  by John Howard Parnell.

[18] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, Appendix G. p.302

[19] Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. i., p. 43.

[20] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, p. 128.

[21] Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. i., p. 29.

[22] She had been violently assaulted on the head in America by a man with a grievance against her a short while before Mr. O’Brien met her. See A Patriot’s Mistake, by her daughter, Mrs. Emily Monroe Dickinson, p. 204 et seq.

[23] Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. i., p. 29.

[24] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, p. 91.

[25] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, p. 131.

[26] Charles Stewart Parnell, by his brother, John Howard Parnell, p. 132.

[27] The Life of Frances Power Cobbe, by herself, vol. i., p186.

[28] On one occasion, Mr. T. M. Healy, now Governor-General of the Irish Free State, asked for permission to dine with Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and was angrily refused. See Life, by R. Barry O’Brien, vol. ii., p. 45.

[29] Chief and Tribune: Parnell and Davitt, by M. M. O’Hara, p. 181.

[30] From an article entitled An Tighearna: A Memory of Parnell, by R. B. Cunninghame Graham, published in Dana, November, 1904, p. 193.

[31] “The work of the suppressed Land League was carried on by the Ladies’ Land League under the Presidency of Parnell’s sister. The ladies, if they did not actually stimulate crime, did little to suppress it. When Parnell eventually emerged from Kilmainham, he was furious with them, both on account of their policy and their extravagance. Outrages had increased, and they had spent £70,000 during the seven months of his incarceration.” – The Life of Henry Labourchere, by Algar Labouchere Thorold, p. 157.

[32] See footnote on p. 373, vol. i., of The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O’Brien.